An innovative study on photography’s role in the liberal reform of early twentieth-century Toronto.
In 1911, when Arthur Goss was hired as Toronto’s first official photographer, the city was at a critical juncture. Industry expansion and population growth produced pressing concerns about housing shortages, sanitation, and the health and welfare of citizens. Dispelling popular misconceptions, Picturing Toronto demonstrates that Goss and other photographers did not simply document the changing conditions of urban life - their photography contributed to the development of modern Toronto and shaped its inhabitants.
Drawing on archival sources from the early twentieth century, Sarah Bassnett investigates how a range of groups, including the municipal government, social reformers, and the press, used photography to reconfigure the urban environment and constitute liberal subjects. Through a series of case studies, including the construction of the Bloor Viaduct, civic beautification plans, urban reform in “the Ward,” immigration and citizenship, and Goss’s portrait photography, Bassnett exposes how photographs were at the heart of debates over what the city should look like, how it should operate, and under what conditions it was appropriate for people to live.
This lavishly illustrated book is the first study to treat images as vital elements that shaped Toronto’s social and political history. Interdisciplinary in its approach, Picturing Toronto displays the complex entanglements between photography and urban modernity.